What better year to celebrate World Forestry Day on 21st March than 2011 – a year in which the public’s passion for woodland erupted and united us in one powerful force for nature. No-one could fail to be in awe at the love we as a people have demonstrated for our natural heritage. You helped fight the threat, now rejoice in your woods!
Initially started in 1971 by the 23rd General Assembly of the European Confederation of Agriculture and supported by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation, the annual World Forestry Day aims to increase public awareness of the huge array of benefits wooded areas offer and commemorates the importance of forests and forestry to communities around the globe. Raising awareness of the wonders and value of nature is one of the most simple but important every day contributions we can make to conservation.
2011 is also the International Year of Forests. So what can forests do for you?
- Forests are home to around two thirds of all Earth’s species, including many humans.
- Forests produce life giving oxygen through the wonders of photosynthesis. One tree produces 260 lbs of oxygen a year and two trees annually create enough oxygen to support a family of four.
- Trees absorb carbon dioxide and are vital carbon sinks, storing around 50% more carbon than is found in the atmosphere. Deforestation accounts for over 18% of greenhouse gas emissions, more than all the cars, trains and planes in the world.
- Woodland absorbs air pollutants such as sulphur dioxide and ozone, improving air quality and alleviating chronic respiratory disease.
- Tree roots conserve water and stabilise soils and sand dunes, preventing erosion and desertification.
- Woods provide timber, fuel, food, medicines and much more.
- The NHS agrees that patients in wards with windows offering woodland views recover faster.
- Trees are proven to reduce stress, increase happiness, and lower death and crime rates.
- Activities in forests reduce obesity, and increase heart health and physical fitness.
This list is far from comprehensive but it does give a decent flavour of forests’ continuing importance to humanity. For millennia these amazing natural habitats have supported us – let’s thank them for their life-giving role and marvel in their complex splendour by celebrating World Forestry Day (which also falls on the vernal equinox).
There are a number of events planned around the country, many taking place on Sunday 20th March – here’s a map showing current known events. If there is not an event already arranged in a wood near you then why not arrange your own, or simply get out and enjoy their beauty as a family or with a picnic basket and a good book. The new Visit Woods website can help you find woods right across the UK. Why not make a weekend of it and take part in the last planting day of the season at Heartwood on the Saturday?
May you all have a wonderful woodland weekend!
Kay Haw, Assistant Conservation Adviser